Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Famed Americus Hotel smorgasbord in Allentown, Pennsylvania

These two old postcards feature the "award-winning" Pennsylvania Dutch style smorgasbord at the Americus Hotel, located at Sixth and Hamilton streets in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Looking at the images more closely, you can see a gelatin mold, fruits and vegetables, what appears to be a dessert table, pies and pastries, and a whole lot of lobster tails. 

Dad remembers going to this buffet as a kid. He writes:

"In the late 50s and early 60s, Bambi and Pappy would take us to the Americus Hotel on Sundays for their smorgasbord. That's where I got introduced to lobster. We would spend 2 hours plus making a five-course meal from the smorgasbord. Lobster then all sorts of fancy desserts. Mom and Dad weren't rich, but back then that may be have $30 total. I think that hotel is still there today."

Indeed, the historic Americus Hotel is set to reopen this spring after a multimillion-dollar makeover, according to The Morning Call (subscription required, as journalism is not free); the reopening was supposed to be sooner but, like many things, it has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Discovering Robert Dale Owen

Just for fun — I'm a barrel of laughs at social gatherings — I went to to find its oldest clipping that references my new town of Florence, Arizona. It came at the bottom of Page 1 of the August 21, 1869, edition of The Weekly Arizona Miner of Prescott, Arizona, and you can see it in its entirety above.

And who is this progressive-sounding Robert Dale Owen that L. Anthony of Florence writes of? Owen is a political figure about whom I was not aware, and a fascinating one at that.

Per Wikipedia, Robert Dale Owen (1801-1877) "was a Scottish-born Welsh social reformer who immigrated to the United States in 1825." After becoming a U.S. citzen, he became involved in Indiana state politics and later represented Indiana in the U.S. House of Representatives for four years. His legacy includes:

  • He helped oversee the peaceful commune of New Harmony, Indiana, which was first settled in 1814 by members of the Harmony Society who had come west from Harmony, Pennsylvania
  • He was a strong advocate for women's rights, laying the groundwork for provisions in the Indiana state constitution related to women's property rights, voting rights and freedom in divorce. (Some of this was done in conjunction with Sarah T. Bolton.)
  • In 1862, he wrote a series of letters "that favored the abolition of slavery and supported general emancipation, as well as a suggestion that the federal government should provide assistance to freedmen."
  • As an Indiana state legislator, he helped build the framework for a taxpayer-supported system of free public schools.
  • In Congress, he introduced the bill to establish the Smithsonian Institution.
  • He wrote a book titled The Debatable Land Between this World and the Next. He was a Spiritualist who raised questions about the authenticity of the Bible.
Owen is one of the peripheral figures in Garrett Epps' book Democracy Reborn: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Fight for Equal Rights in Post-Civil War America. When I looked this book up, I discovered I had already marked it on Goodreads as something to check out. The Washington Post's 2006 review mentions Owen and his involvement with the 14th Amendment.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Sunday night stream of consciousness from Saguaro-vania

Superior, Arizona. About 30 minutes northeast of our new home. (Photo by me) 

We arrived at our new home in Florence, Arizona, last week after a 3½-day drive that took us through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and then into Arizona. That dash across the country in the Honda Civic has already become somewhat of a blur in my mind. I have no recollection of anything in Ohio, possibly because we were enjoying a Jim Steinman playlist. We had dinner and spent a night in Indiana. We had a sunny morning and nice drive in Illinois. In Missouri, the roads around St. Louis were the worst of the trip. As we continued through Missouri, we had hundreds of miles of billboards touting either caverns or raunchy roadside attractions. Oklahoma was flat and lovely and we could drive very fast on the toll roads. But after a night in Oklahoma, we found ourselves delayed the next morning by freezing rain in Oklahoma and Texas — part of a multiday Deep South winter weather system that has now led to a Federal Emergency Declaration for Texas. 

After we made it through that, the weather warmed up greatly in western Texas. We made a short pit stop in Vega, Texas, for Munzees and to snap some pictures that I'll feature in a future post. In the flat, hot nothingness of New Mexico, we made stops in Route 66 favorite Tucumcari, which I'd like to visit again someday, and Clines Corners, which has a Rest Stop Extraordinaire but little else of note. As darkness fell in New Mexico on the third day of driving, we had a slow, winding driving through the El Malpais National Conservation Area before crossing into Arizona. Our final night on the road was spent in Show Low, Arizona, where there was snow on the ground! We passed many "Elk Crossing" signs, but saw no elk. 

On our final morning of driving, between Show Low and Globe, we traversed the Salt River Canyon, which was simultaneously one of the most breathtaking and white-knuckle drives of my life. Once was enough. At least it was in broad daylight and the roads were excellent.

The moving van is supposed to arrive here in Florence tomorrow. Inside, there will be many boxes of books, old photos, postcards and ephemera. In a way, it will be like starting the Papergreat exploration/excavation all over again, with fresh eyes. That seems both exciting and daunting. I want to this blog to be fun, not stressful or something that feels like an obligation. So I hope the time and inspiration strike me in sufficient measure in the coming weeks and months, as I also take time to adjust to life in the Western U.S. 

My great-grandparents, Greta Miriam Chandler Adams (1894-1988) and Howard Horsey Adams (1892-1985) were in their mid to late 50s when they moved into their oft-mentioned house on Oak Crest Lane in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, circa 1951. (Mental note: Get that exact date and put it in a post.) That ended up being a house crammed with decades of family history. To me, it just seemed like they always lived there; and I got to be the one to clean it out in the 2010s. 

Being age 50, it kind of feels late to be starting over in a blank slate of a house and a blank slate of a community, but I'm years younger than Greta and Howard were when they moved to Oak Crest Lane. There's plenty of time for seeding this desert dwelling with memories and ephemera.
Soon, the books in this room will outnumber the cats. We hope.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Temporary interruption of service

(Curteichcolor mid-century postcard)

Hello readers! And apologies! There's going to continue to be a bit of a lull with the Papergreat posts as we complete the final stages of our packing and long-distance move to Arizona.

All of the ephemera is now in boxes, and 99.8% of the books are now in boxes. I have been told not to blog while driving. 

If all goes well, I should return to posting around the weekend of Feb. 13-14. New posts will emanate from S-auppag in Pinal County, about 410 miles southwest of the Kingdom of Nye. S-auppag, known to the moderns as Florence, is the land of Levi Ruggles, the Adamstown ghost town, the Gila River, a whole honkin' boatload of prisons, a World War II POW camp and "relocation center," Poston Butte, javelinas, coyotes, haboobs, the Mogollon Monster, domineering homeowners' associations, Ak-Chin Village, Campo Bonito, Silly Mountain Park and many other things that I've much to learn about. It's a long way from Pennsylvania. A new chapter begins...

Sunday, January 24, 2021

The evolution of an extinct bird

This slightly capybaraesque creature looks about how I feel most days this month: Tired, shaggy, stressed and just plain done with all the nonsense. If its birdlike feet could take it somewhere quiet, serene and featuring an abundance of chocolate cake, I'm sure it would go. 

Alas, its feet are affixed firmly to that ground, forever, and ever, and ever.

It's one of the shockingly unrealistic "dinosaurs" at Dinosaur Land in White Post, Virginia, a roadside tourist attraction that's been delighting travelers since 1963. Of course, you can't blame the park's creators for any historical inaccuracies. Our understanding of what dinosaurs and birds of yore looked and acted like has changed greatly, thanks to the ongoing scientific research of the past six decades. 

In fact, our understanding has changed so much that diatryma, the creature pictured on this postcard, is no longer considered to be part of a distinct genus. 

But it still was as of this postcard, which states that diatryma is "an ancient member of the bird family. It has underdeveloped wings so it could not fly. Its legs were very powerful for running and had a very strong beak. It was a meat eater much as our hawks and eagles of today."

The "meat eater" part has changed, too. This bird is actually in the extinct genus Gastornis, and here's what Wikipedia has to say about it:
"Gastornis is an extinct genus of large flightless birds that lived during the late Paleocene and Eocene epochs of the Cenozoic era. The genus is currently thought to contain three or four distinct species, known from incomplete fossil remains, found in western-central Europe (England, Belgium, France and Germany). More complete specimens are known from a fourth, North American species, which had previously been classified in the distinct genus Diatryma. Many scientists now consider Diatryma to be so similar to the other species of Gastornis that it should also be included in that genus. A fifth species, also previously classified in its own genus, is known from China.

'"Gastornis species were very large birds, and have traditionally been considered to be predators of small mammals. However, several lines of evidence, including the lack of hooked claws in known Gastornis footprints and studies of their beak structure have caused scientists to reinterpret these birds as herbivores that probably fed on tough plant material and seeds."
And here's a better estimation now of what Gastornis looked like, which is a far cry from the Dinosaur Land bird on this postcard:

Tim Bertelink, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons 

Some other information about this old postcard:
  • The photo was taken by Larry Witt
  • The postcard was made by Dexter Press of West Nyack, New York
  • The stamp box indicates that it's a Dexter Supreme 
  • It was published by A.J. Simonpietri Jr. of Front Royal, Virginia
  • It is copyright 1969

Saturday, January 23, 2021

"Winnie Winkle" and the Tucked Away Inside Envelope

Joan said, "You keep carrying your Winnie Winkle around the house." So I reckoned I should finally get around to this post so I don't have to carry it around anymore.

Part I: The book
  • Title: Winnie Winkle and the Diamond Heirlooms
  • From the title page: "An original story based on Martin Branner's famous newspaper strip 'Winnie Winkle'"
  • Story by: Helen Berke
  • Illustrated by: Martin Branner
  • From the dust jacket: In answer to her friend's urgent call Winnie Winkle cancels her vacation plans and goes to Chicago, only to hurried off to a lonely farm in search of a hidden legacy. Although held prisoners by two crooks, Winnie and her friends, Mary Dee and Tommy, manage to outwit their jailers, search out the hidden legacy, and escape with the treasure intact.
  • Well, that pretty much gives away the plot: Yes.
  • Publisher: Whitman Publishing Co., Racine, Wisconsin
  • Year: 1946
  • Pages: 248
  • Format: Hardcover 
  • First sentence: Winnie Winkle pirouetted merrily in front of the full length mirror.
  • Last sentence: Winnie said and waved good night to her friends.
  • Random sentence from the middle #1: Under the influence of good French cooking, soft lights, and sweet music, Winnie's annoyance vanished.
  • Random sentence from the middle #2: In the sanctuary of her own room, Winnie sat down on the chaise longue.
  • Reviews: I couldn't find any online reviews of this book, but I found this item under "School News" in the April 23, 1959, edition of The Lenox (Iowa) Time Table: "We are very sorry that Cheryl Beck is on the absent list. She has the chicken pox. We hope her a speedy return. Our teacher is reading a mystery book named, 'Winnie Winkle and the Diamond Heirlooms.' For Art Class we did a mosaic. Mosaic art is used in Mexican buildings and in sidewalks."
Part II: Tucked away inside          
Tucked away inside this old book was a letter that was mailed almost exactly 70 years ago, in January 1951. It was sent from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Sunbury, Pennsylvania. Written in cursive and on lined paper, it states:

Phila. 42, Pa.

Dear Sandra,
I don't know whether I have have written and thanked you before but if I have I would like to thank you again for the nice wallet which came just before Christmas. I will be proud to carry it with me.

Boy! Is it snowing! It's the kind of snow that comes down in great big flakes.

I hope you'll pardon some of my mistakes. I am watching T.V. and I watch a little and write a little. Now I'm looking at a movie. It's called "The Black Doll" (a "whodone-it") with Donald Wood [sic]. Before I was watching "Robert Q.'s Matinee" with Robert Q. Lewis. He's neat!

Boy! Are we having a lot of work in school. It seems there's always something. Book reports, tests, etc.

Tonight Rudy goes to a dinner-dance given by his graduating class. He gets out the end of this month (out of school that is).

I heard a good joke the other day. Here it is: We used to have a cow but it wouldn't given milk, so we had to sell him! HA! HA!

I got a swell pair of shoe rollerskates and a case for Christmas (among other things). Just what I wanted!

I must close now hoping to hear from you soon,
All my love,

P.S. Rudy took some nice movies of the Mummers Parade, New Years Day. We can't wait until they come back. Now watching Howdy Doody! 

We may come up soon. I'm not sure. Please tell your girlfriend that I haven't had time to answer her letter.

This is probably (almost certainly?) the Sandra Orwig who was the recipient of the letter. She was a 1955 graduate of Sunbury High School and died in 2019.  

RPPC: Summer 1919

This AZO real photo postcard features two women sitting on a bench in a lovely park or backyard. An empty wooden crate is on the ground next to them. It looks like they're dressed up for a special occasion, or perhaps for Sunday church.

There is cursive writing on the back. It states: "Mrs. Frank Beddow and Minnie G., Summer 1919"

One more fragment of information — Minnie's last name, a location, etc., — would have been helpful and might have allowed us to zero in on at least one positive identity. Alas, "Frank Beddow" is too common of a name to get us anywhere definitively.

There was a Frank Beddow who was born in Missouri and would have been in his early 30s around the time of this photo. But he didn't get married until 1926, so no dice.

The was a Frank Beddow who got in a lot of trouble with the law in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1924. But who knows?

* * *

OK, I'll play...

Friday, January 22, 2021

The future is going to be so confused about us